Advocacy Updates: 4/4/2023


April 4, 2023 | by Amber Smock

Chicago Mayoral Runoff Election

Access Living friends and allies,

Today’s Chicago city runoff election is critical for the future of our disability advocacy. If you are a Chicago disability voter, have you voted? Polls close at 7 pm today—see this link from the Chicago Board of Elections—and you can report voting accessibility issues to Equip for Equality at this link. While Access Living is a nonpartisan advocacy organization, and we cannot make any endorsements, we can talk about why the roles of Mayor and Alderman/woman are so important to the lives of more than 600,000 Chicagoans with disabilities.

  1. Disability issues are governance issues. The lives of Chicagoans with disabilities are affected in many ways by our city government. Who governs our city, and who designs the city government systems, and whether disability voice is part of governance, can make a huge difference in whether people with disabilities can get their needs met as residents of Chicago. Many thousands of Chicagoans happen to be both disabled and from minority communities, and thus successful city governance has to account for both race and disability equity.
  2. Why the Mayor of Chicago matters to people with disabilities. The Mayor of Chicago has enormous power. The Mayor not only appoints the heads of city departments, but also has the point to appoint heads of sister agencies, such as the Chicago Transit Authority, the Chicago Housing Authority, and the Chicago Public Schools. These leaders have profound impact on the lives of people with disabilities and especially those of color, through setting strategic priorities and benchmarks for accessibility and inclusion. Today’s election will influence the leadership of Chicago’s next four years.
  3. Why the Chicago alderman matter to people with disabilities. Chicago has fifty members of City Council, or aldermen. In today’s runoff election, fourteen aldermanic races will also be decided. Aldermen provide constituent services to their wards, but they also play an important part in the governance of the City as a whole, through creating new ordinances and approving the city budget. Aldermen are important allies when they hold the city and the public accountable for access and inclusion, from both a race and a disability standpoint.

After the runoff election, what’s next? Once the election winners have been declared, newly elected candidates will begin preparing to take office on May 15. On that day, the new Mayor and all of City Council will be sworn in. Of the fifty aldermen, almost a quarter will be new. This means that it will take time to see what their process and collective priorities will be. It will be important to get to know your new City officials and help them understand what disabled people in Chicago need.

If you live in Chicago, we hope you exercised your right to vote! Both the mayoral and aldermanic runoffs are critical to our lives. Feel free to share this message with fellow interested advocates.